. . . or how to wear furs this winter without hurting your pet’s feelings.
There is nothing, absolute nothing quite like wrapping yourself in fur. As a sensuous experience, it is in the same class as a new love, old champagne or fresh truffles. But even the most hedonistic of women are relieved that the threatened species are no longer imported. Snow leopards, tigers and other cats can go their own way and sensibly sybaritic female will look for furs that are farmed, such as fox and mink. This winter, too, the fakes are so wayout and wildly coloured that only a girl without a heart could resist their charms, albeit synthetic. Perhaps that’s why the fur trade have taken the hint and dipped their favourite fox pelts in the dye pot, Furrier Maxwell Croft offers his explanation of the female urge to wear and the male urge to bestow furs: “For many men it is a primitive desire to see his woman in furs.”. Very nice,too.
Plenty to scoff at the end of the copy there, but oh goodness the clothes – the clothes! And the glorious photography of Alice Springs, whose work doesn’t turn up nearly enough for my liking.
If you follow me on Instagram, you will already have read my tribute to the amazing John Bates, who died on the 5th of June aged 83. Here I have collated a few images of his work designing costumes for Diana Rigg as Emma Peel in her first season in The Avengers, and an accompanying article from Woman’s Mirror, October 1965. I have also updated an earlier post with clearer scans from Woman’s Mirror, May 1966 of a dress which wasn’t officially Avengerswear but being offered as a pattern for readers with a cover photo of Diana in the dress.
“WHEN people say, ‘Oh, she’s the new Avengers girl’ I know that’s not all I am,” says 27-year-old Diana Rigg. “I had a career in the theatre before this and I know I can always go back to it. I hate talking about The Avengers and what I’m like in it and how I differ from Honor Blackman. I would much rather people drew their own conclusions.
“I dread the prospect of all the attachments to being famous. I work here at the studios from seven in the morning until six at night and I feel that should be enough. The thought of being a public personality, opening shops, and not being able to answer the door in my curlers, horrifies me.”
But being the Avengers girl has its advantages. Not the least of them being the prospect of wearing a sizz-ling new wardrobe, designed specially for the series by John Bates of Jean Varon.
“John’s been absolutely smashing,” says Diana. “Like most actresses, I spend a lot of time studying myself for the stage, and so off-stage I tend to the casual. I really have no set ideas about clothes. First of all, John studied my figure, discovered myfaults, used them, and made a virtue out of them.
“He’s emphasised my broad shoulders with cutaway necklines. He’s drawn attention to my big hips with hipsters and huge broad belts. I think that this is a far more realistic attitude than designing for some impossible ideal model figure.
“There’s a kind of swinginess about John’s clothes which really makes me move in a special kind of way. And they’re all interchangeable. In different episodes there will be different permutations of the same clothes and ideally, of course, this is just how a woman’s wardrobe should be.
In deference to the American market, which still thinks that leather is the sexiest thing out, Diana has one leather fighting suit. “Of course, leather isn’t sexy at all,” she says, “It’s far too rigid. My other fighting suit is in black, clingy jersey which is far sexier.”
Clingy jersey fighting suits are all very well, but they have to stand up to pretty stiff competition in the shape of some snazzy interchangeables.
In this week’s instalment set in a gloomy Scottish castle, Diana will wear ice-blue lace ensemble with ankle boots, hipster trousers, bare midriff, bra top and modesty jacket. For exploring dungeon and torture chambers, flesh lace catsuit under white chiffon negligee.
There’s no doubt about it. If the clothes are anything to go by, this ABC series of The Avengers is certainly living up to the boast of its associate producer . . “It’s still a kinky show.”
(This post was originally from 2011. I have updated it with better quality scans.)
John Bates loves short skirts, money, false eyelashes and Cilla Black. Hates English bras, big busts and any sort of foundation garment.
“Women are funny,” he says. “They heave their breasts up and out with tight padded bras and by the time they’ve finished squeezing everything in or pushing it out, they can look quite terrifying when they take their clothes off. Bras should just lightly cup the breast and tights are better than any girdle. Even the lightest suspender belt marks the skin. It’s muscles that matter – women ought to learn to use them properly.”
John, who is 29, created fashion dynamite with his sizzling clothes for Diana Rigg in The Avengers. He believes that skirts are going to get even shorter and that everyone under 40 should be pinning up hems. He says clothes look best on slim girls, but furnishes his flat with curvaceous statues and pictures of rotund Rubenesque beauties. He makes a lot of his own clothes, thinks that hipsters suit both sexes and most sizes, and always wears them himself. He’s now designing shoes, stockings and planning his new collection as well as designing clothes for men.
“And I always design something special for my mother at Christmas. Last year she set her heart on an Avenger op art fur coat. She’s well over 60 and I said, ‘Honestly love, it won’t suit you,’ but she said, ‘What’s good enough for Diana Rigg is good enough for me.’
“Usually I don’t listen to anybody. I’ve had my years of being told what to do. Now I don’t accept advice from anybody.”
Born in Newcastle, the son of a miner, John started at the bottom. “I’m no art school protégé. I picked up pins, embroidered, did the cleaning and had every rotten job that was going flung at me. I came to London because it’s the only place to work in the rag trade. I got on the train with a Newcastle accent and when I got off at London I’d lost it. I spoke very slowly for a long time, but it’s really the only way to do it.”
John Bates and model photogrphed by John Carter.
Diana Rigg cover photographed by Don Silverstein.
Scanned from Woman’s Mirror, 28th May 1966.
And joy! The magazine’s owner never sent off for the dress (which is sad), but this means that the form is still in tact (which is rather fabulous). Now where’s that time-travelling postbox I keep requesting?
There is a licence to touch all the clothes on these pages. There is not a single trad, scratchy, thornproof tweed among any of the frankly tactile silks, angoras and flannels of autumn. Jerseys and pearls and sensible shoes were once the uniform of the WI. Now, (well) kept ladies whose fingers smell of “Cabochard” rather than cabbage, are pressing their flannel bags, having their pearls restrung and are wearing them with shirts so unbuttoned they could catch pneumonia – and heels high enough to rise above the muddiest farmyard. They are taking to pleated kilts, and cashmere sweaters so tight they’d enliven the dullest game of backgammon. Dinner dresses are back in style, and I do mean back down as far as you can go. Properly and provocatively dressed, a weekend in the country might be more fun than you think.
Hair arranged for all pictures by Carl of Molton Brown.
On Thursday evening at 8 o’clock The Avengers comes back. Viewers in London, Scotland and the South will see it, other channels will have to wait until October 2. The new show lacks one vital element. Honor Blackman, who played Cathy Gale, that female gauleiter with a heart of gold, has left television for films and the arms of James Bond.
She is replaced by rangy, redheaded Diana Rigg, an actress already blooded for knock-about violence in shows like King Lear and The Devils with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She plays the new Avenger woman Emma Peel, who is described by A.B.C. television as “the youthful widow of an ace test pilot, daughter of a wealthy shipowner, and an internationally educated symbol of the jet-age female”.
A strong-arm widow, born with such disadvantages, couldn’t fail to be an interesting autumn draw, but the new girl will find it hard work to oust the memory of Cathy Gale from the spot she kicked out for herself in these shows. For, as Cathy Gale, Honor Blackman was mesmeric. Male viewers turned to pulp in their armchairs as she hurled opponent after opponent through plate glass windows, and their TV dinners turned to dust as she half-nelsoned men twice her size.
Women were fascinated too, but for different reasons. They sat glued to their sets wondering what it was she had, that they hadn’t. Her slightly sinister but wholly fathomable allure had little to do with her natural assets ; her toughness, the purring reassurance of her voice, her earthiness ; her blonde hair and wide mouth. Cathy Gale’s real appeal was firmly laced into the shiny black leather of her fighting suits.
The black leather fighting suits she wore, now generally referred to as ‘kinky clothes’ were designed by Frederick Starke. They proved such a success both here and in the U.S.A., where the last series was sold, that the American business men controlling the sales insisted that these clothes should be retained for the next series. This was a mistake. Fashion moves much faster than most business men, and the feeling for black leather was on the wane, long before the last episode was off the screen. But A.B.C. agreed to the American conditions, and Emma was togged up in black leather and boots, looking just like Cathy Gale in a long red wig.
Before the new series was half-way through, the planners realised that some fairly startling changes were taking place in the fashion world. Skirts were getting shorter and women appeared to be crossing their thighs, not their knees. Leather was out. All sorts of animal skins, from snakes to zebras, were in. And op and pop art were having an explosive effect on textile design.
This series is the first to be made on film instead of videotape, which means it could be running in different countries all over the world for the next five to ten years. It would be pushed to keep its con-temporary smack with a limping gimmick like black leather. At this point, with half their film in the bag, A.B.C. called in fashion co-ordinator Anne Trehearne, an ex-fashion editor of Queen magazine, and asked designer John Bates of Jean Varon to plan a new wardrobe for Emma Peel to wear during the last 14 episodes. John Bates is the man who made the now famous daisy dress which 25 red-faced debutantes wore to the same ball.
Designing a wardrobe for a preconceived image is no easy task, but he succeeded in doing this and more besides. His clothes are 100 per cent. modern. He has shortened the skirts (in spite of tough opposition in certain quarters at A.B.C.), re-designed the black leather fighting outfits into modern, one-piece jump-suits, introduced tailored snakeskin and a whole range of op art furs.
In all there are 35 garments with complementary accessories. And for the first time the whole collection will be sold in the shops. (Frederick Starke did sell some of Cathy Gale’s wardrobe, but only selected items.) Over 12 well-known manufacturers, like Edward Rayne, Paul Blanche and Kangol, are co-operating with John Bates at Jean Varon and are making the shoes, the skin coats and the berets under licence; Echo are even making the amusing ribbed sheer nylon stockings. They will all be in the shops in October.
Both the clothes and the series are now saleable properties. It will be interesting to see which proves the biggest draw to interested buyers the striking new clothes or the shiny new girl.
Photographed by David Gittings.
Story by Meriel McCooey.
Scanned from The Sunday Times Magazine, September 26th 1965.
Oh to be out of England now that April’s here, and whether you are planning on Majorca, the far-flung Bahamas or the Isle of Wight this year, now is the best time to shop for holiday clothes. And having just stepped out of a QANTAS jet that took Cosmo island-hopping via Bermuda to the Bahamas, I have a slight tan and a strong feeling that summer’s fashions will be as refreshing, bittersweet and highly coloured as that tropical drink, Planter’s Punch.
Oh to be anywhere but home, quite frankly. I shall have to recreate these styles on the balcony and dream of even going as far as the Isle of Wight…
All jewellery by Adrien Mann. Fashion by Deirdre McSharry.
Watching Circus of Fear, a very enjoyable B-movie from 1966 with Christopher Lee and Leo Genn, I noted that the luscious Margaret Lee was briefly seen wearing a piece of John Bates-designed Avengerswear.
This black and white crepe catsuit was worn by Diana Rigg in The Avengers and modelled by Jean Shrimpton (with stunt man Ray Austin) for Vogue in 1965. It was, like all the Avengerswear, available to buy from the shops but these pieces are so rare and I have yet to find this catsuit in all my years of searching.
I am now extremely curious to know whether this was something from Ms Lee’s own wardrobe which she bought herself, or whether the wardrobe supervisor (Charles Guerin) found it – oblivious to the fact that it was already a costume tie-in, or simply hoping that no one would notice. Or an even wilder theory is that it was the actual costume worn by Diana Rigg and already in circulation as a hireable costume. I suppose we may never know, but I thought it worth preserving for posterity.
Whether you believe in star signs or not, this lovely editorial is certainly fun to browse. Pretty happy with my Cancerian Annacat dress, modelled by Stephanie Farrow, but greatly envy the Aries and Scorpio threads.
(Also, please don’t shout at me about the furs. I don’t like them either but it would be weird to leave out Leo and Aquarius. Just pretend they’re fake…)
For some years now the London fashion designers have had the edge on their Paris rivals for ideas and innovations. Tomorrow evening a film on this subject will be shown on BBC1. Today we photograph the key London designers with their favourite clothes. What do they think of the London fashion scene? Where do we go from here?
Photographed by Terence Donovan. Fashion by Cherry Twiss.
Scanned from The Telegraph Magazine, May 25th 1973.